Audi's 2008 A3 offers a lot of car in a small package, but it carries its diminutive size with a solidity, both inside and out, that is unusual. In addition to an eager engine and one of the best interiors in its class, this five-door hatchback is a marvelous choice for those who want a car that combines the nimbleness of a sports car with the cargo capabilities of a mini-wagon. An optional S-Line Package combines a stiffer suspension with higher performance tires and a few pieces of body trim to make the front-wheel drive A3 into a well-mannered street racer, while the S-Line quattro A3 brings it all together to make for a sporty vehicle indeed.
Audi's 2008 A3 hatchback enters its third model year looking much like it did upon its debut. A tire pressure monitor is part of the standard equipment list for 2008, as are daytime running lights. The S-Line quattro model receives an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The S-Line and Premium Packages include different wheels from 2007, and xenon lights no longer require a package to be ordered. The Titanium Package is new for 2008, and it includes black exterior trim, unique 18-inch alloy wheels, and performance tires. A Convenience Package, which includes an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a rain/light sensor, replaces last year's Technology Package. Also, rear sunshades, walnut wood trim, and an iPod glovebox interface are available.
A new partial zero-emissions version of the 2.0L engine is available in "clean car" states.
- Exhilarating drive
- utility and sportiness
- thoughtful interior design
- reasonable price point.
The A3, Audi's first hatchback for the U.S. market, celebrated its third birthday in 2008, continuing to tout itself as "the first four-door car with the sportiness of a TT coupe."
The base engine is a smooth 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, and is available with front-wheel drive. The 2.0T comes standard with a great six-speed manual gearbox that has light and easy clutch action. Audi's Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) is a $1,480 option, and is based on technology pioneered in their Le Mans winning racecars. The DSG shifts either automatically or with the pull of a steering column-mounted paddle, and it always has the next gear ready for quick engagement.
The throaty 250-horsepower narrow-angle 3.2L V6 is paired with the DSG and Audi's all-wheel-drive system on the S-Line quattro. Its base price starts just under $35,000.
Audi has done an outstanding job with the exterior and interior of the A3. All body panels have tight seams and appealing lines, and the interior materials are all top notch. The A3 is well equipped with standard items, including dual-zone automatic climate control and an AM/FM/CD stereo.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock circuitry on all four disc brakes, and brake assist helps give full braking power for panic stops. The electronic stability program keeps the A3 planted, while front, side, and head curtain air bags protect occupants in the event of a collision.
The compromise between ride and handling is perfect for the A3's intended mission. The car can be pressed hard through the corners, yet the ride is never punishing. The back seat provides plenty of room for a family with two growing children.
Audi's execution is first rate, and all in all the A3 delivers a quality driving experience in a shapely package.